On 4-3 Vote, Council Eliminates Human Resources Director

The position of Human Resources Director will not be filled in 2015-16, a proposal that came as a surprise to three of the seven Councilors.

The position, along with a proposed position for an Economic Development Director, was removed from the 2016 budget in the process preceding the final vote on the 2016 budget.

The position is currently filled by Larry Budreau, who also serves as Acting Town Administrator when necessary, a position he held from July 2013, when former Administrator John Anderson was placed on leave, until this past fall, when Galen Stearns was hired.

Councilor David Fischer made the motion to eliminate the Human Resources position, at a savings of $150,000 a year, salary and benefits. Fischer said when the Council was interviewing Stearns, he said that he did not need an assistant. Fischer said there were “capable people in the Finance Department” who could take up some of the slack, and he urged that Stearns be charged with the human resources function.

A clearly incredulous Councilor Joshua Bourdon asked, “You are suggesting we run the town without a Human Resources Director?”

“Galen has experience with personnel,” Fischer said. “With a Chief Financial Officer, he can delegate responsibility.”

Bourdon, who works in the staffing industry, said, “Do you have any idea what level of education it takes to run that portion of this town? No business of this magnitude runs without a dedicated HR department.”

“Have you spoken to Galen about that?” Bourdon asked.

“No, that would be micromanaging,” Fischer replied.

Bourdon pressed, “Is this against Human Resources in general, or is it against Larry?”

When Chairman Tom Cardon gaveled Bourdon, the crowd yelled, “Let him speak.”

“It was a budgetary decision,” Fischer said.

Bourdon insisted that HR and Town Administrator were different roles. He asked Stearns, “Have you had any experience in HR?”

“I am not an HR manager,” Stearns said, adding that he had handled small departments in smaller towns with their personnel issues.

The Council voted 4-3 to eliminate Human Resources, with Fischer, Cardon, Al Dimmock and Mark Osborne in favor and Bourdon, Phyllis Katsakiores and Richard Tripp against the move.

Katsakiores pressed for a “Charter objection” to the move and when Osborne asked what part of the charter she was citing, Katsakiores said, “All of it.”

Bourdon backed her up, saying, “The decisions we made tonight have gone way beyond fiscal responsibility. We are taking some drastic risks. This is out of hand.”

Katsakiores invoked RSA 91:A, the Right-To-Know Law, because she said putting the elimination of that position forward without informing the Council was a violation of 91:A. “It is a violation to bring this up without any discussion,” she said.

Cardon responded that 91:A is “not part of the Derry charter” and rejected Katsakiores’ charter objection.

Katsakiores, a devout Catholic, looked out at the audience and said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

The Economic Development Director, at a salary and benefits of $115,000, had been placed in the budget by Stearns in response to demands from townspeople to get Derry’s economy moving and thus reduce the tax rate. The position had come under close scrutiny since Stearns revealed his budget. To Dimmock’s motion that the position be removed from the budget, Tripp said, “I do not anticipate us filling it immediately. The Council has to do some investigation.”

But, Tripp said, the money should be left in the budget. “If we take it out of the budget, we’ll go back to the ‘do nothing’ mentality,” he said. “Let’s keep it in the budget, and spend the money wisely.”

Cardon disagreed, stating, “Hiring someone now is not good. We have no plan, no ideas. We need to get a committee together.”

The Council voted 4-3 to eliminate the Economic Development position, with the same split as before.